Izu Peninsular is an area south-west of Tokyo known for its thickly forested mountains, natural hot springs, stretching beaches and blue seas cut with jagged islands. Usami is a small town on the eastern coast surrounded by small mountains that open up to a curving beach with some of the best surfing in Izu.

Transport There are several ways to get there: easy and expensive (shinkansen bullet train from Central Tokyo, about 4,000 – 6,000 yen),  or slow and with a lot of changes (local trains, about 3,000 yen).We took a shinkansen for the first time, before I was put off by the price but it was travelling at its finest – relaxing, easy, and watching the scenery roll past while enjoying the extra leg room. 

When Usami can be surf paradise when the weather and tides are right – July through to mid-September is warm enough in regular swimming gear. Outside that you`d be better with a wetsuit. Also, after late August there`s a chance of jellyfish being swept into the bay. Some of these, like the box jellyfish native to Australia, can be dangerous. I visited in mid September during peak jellyfish season – they kept us out of the water for a day before they finally got swept out to sea. I was stung by a `safe` one and it felt like an electric shock. I also saw Portugese Man of War jellies about a week before along the coast nearer to Tokyo, but if there`s lots of people in the water then you should be fine.

Where to stay There are a few small hotels and guesthouses in Usami, some right next to the beach. Its a small town so don`t expect an overwhelming choice. Also restaurants are few and far between, you`d get more choice in the bigger towns of Atami (to the north) or Ito (one stop down on the train line to the south) if your hotel doesn`t offer any meals. Or just rough it on convenience store food.

Things to Do In Usami Get in the ocean. Take an onsen. Drink beer on the beach. Simple, but a pretty good mix for a relaxing beach trip. Theres a 50 foot Buddha statue you can see from the town if you fancy a hike up into the mountains to explore some temples. I havent tried this yet as the beach/bath/beer combination was just too compelling, but it looks impressive even from the coast

Things to do near Usami To the south of Usami are some of the most popular spots in the Izu Peninsular.

Jogasaki Coast is a walk along the cliffs with spectacular views of cliffs, small islands and waterfalls. It passes through thick forest, a mix of tough Japanese pines clinging to sheer clifftops or perched on tiny isles in the ocean, and semi-tropical rainforest. At both ends of the walk there are suspension bridges which offer views over coves and cliffs, and along the way there are temples, shrines and Izu Oceanic Park, where you can go swimming or try scuba diving.

The full walk is over 12 kms and surprising tough going because it follows the natural line of the cliffs, so the path meanders along all the inlets and small bays, and rises or falls steeply in some places. Although it is not an easy walk it is extremely rewarding – the meandering coastline means the view is always changing, and there are over 30 famous viewpoints signposted that include waterfalls, tiny valleys full of hydrangea flowers or cherry blossom at the right time of year, statues and temples, as well as the staggering natural beauty of the coast itself.

Walking along Hashidate Bridge

If you do not want to do the full walk then the bridges at either end can be accessed easily from local train stations. Jogasaki Kaigen Station at the north east end is just over 1km from the Kawowaki Suspension Bridge and lighthouse, and Izu Kogen Station in the south west is 1km from Hashidate Suspension Bridge.There are bus tours to visit Renchakuji Temple and Izu Oceanic Park too.

Jogasaki can be reached by train from Ito Station, the trains are every 20 minutes on the Izu Kyuko line and the ride takes around 25-35 minutes.

Personally I would recommend trying the full walk because of the amazing scenery and fascinating sights along the way, but wearing loose comfortable clothes and taking a lot of water is a good idea, as between Renchakuji Temple and Hiashidate Bridge there are no water fountains and on a humid day you will get hot walking on the steep parts. I would also suggest wearing practical shoes like walking boots or trainers after watching a girl in stilettos stumble around on the rocky parts at Kawowaki Bridge.

Izukogen Station offers several museums, many of them pretty unusual, as well as the Jogasaki walk. These include the Music Box Museum, the Teddy Bear Museum, the Doll House Museum and the Museum of Interesting Things.               I have not visited any of these, although the Museum of Interesting Things sounded… interesting.

Seven Waterfalls is another well-known walk near Kawazu Station through forest in the centre of Izu. It is about 1km, and can be reached by bus from Kawazu Station on the Izu Kyuku line.

Snorkelling or scuba diving can be done in Kawazu. Expect to pay 1,500yen to rent a snorkel, mask and flippers, then pay an extra 1,500 yen if you want to dive on the beach near the harbour. This money is demanded by the fishermans union so they can earn cash `when they can`t go in the water because of divers`. Thats one way to translate it. The other is frankly `We want to rip off tourists.Also we own the ocean. Because we say so, thats why`. Follow the road that goes along the beach to the south, it goes around a couple of bends and you`ll see a tiny unspoiled tranquil beach where you will see a ton of fish and show the fishermen exactly where they can stick their tax

Shirahama Beach is the most famous beach on the peninsular and is a long stretch of white sand near Shimoda. There are areas near here for snorkelling or scuba diving. You can get there on the Izu Kyuko line from Usami.

More information

Trains http://www.hyperdia.com lists train times in English or Japanese